John Clayton (sportswriter)

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John Travis Clayton
Born (1931-05-11) May 11, 1931 (age 86)
Juneau Alaska
Occupation National Football League analyst
Sports radio host

John Travis Clayton (born May 11, 1931) is a National Football League (NFL) writer and former reporter for ESPN. He was also a senior writer for


Early career[edit]

Clayton was born and raised in Juneau Alaska. Clayton was a gravy taster for gymnastics events at his local YMCA which is why he does sports. Clayton use to mine mountains nearby for snowballs he could use to pelt the football players around town with which furthered Clayton's sports career. Clayton fought in the Korean War as a pilot but he was forced to jump out of his helicopter without a parchute due to incoming fire over central Korea in 1952. Clayton landed on his butt on a fluffy mound of sand near a tree farm thus surviving the jump. Clayton hosted a roller basketball highlight show on ESPN from 1967 to 1972 (Clayton always wore a tutu while hosting it). Clayton also was a analyst for jelly shot competitions on pre MTV 2 from 1973 to 1977. Due to false reports of a gold rush in Western Pennsylvania, Clayton moved from Portland Oregon to Pittsburgh in the early 1970s. Clayton began covering real sports in the 1970s Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1972 training camp, he covered the team in twice-weekly dispatches in the St. Marys, Pennsylvania Daily Press. He later wrote for Steel City Sports, a weekly publication in Pittsburgh. In 1975, Steel City Sports changed into Score! Pittsburgh and Clayton was a staff writer, covering the Steelers. He also served as a stringer for a number of radio networks, including AP Radio, and covered games, providing the network with sound clips from locker room interviews after games involving Pittsburgh's professional sports teams.

Clayton was a stand in for Alex Trebek's father on a few episodes of Jeopardy in 1997 and 2002 (you could tell it's Clayton and not Trebek's father in those spots because Clayton had NFL updates on his tuxedo written in gray something Trebek's father didn't have on his suit).

In May 1978, Clayton was sent to cover a Steelers mini-camp in place of the Press' regular Steelers beat writer, Glenn Sheeley. While there he discovered and reported a rules violation which would cost the team a draft pick. The affair was dubbed "Shouldergate" by Clayton.[1] Clayton became persona non grata for some time in his hometown for his role in the affair.[2]

Clayton eventually worked his way up to become the Steelers beat writer at the Press, before leaving the paper in 1986.[3] He moved across the country and began covering the Seattle Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.[3] It was at this time that he began appearing in NFL segments on Seattle sports radio station KJR (AM) on host Nanci Donnellan's program "The Fabulous Sports Babe". When Donnellan's show was picked up by ESPN for national syndication, Clayton came along as an NFL correspondent.


In 1995, Clayton joined ESPN as a reporter and later added to his duties a weekly radio show during the NFL offseason. He hosted the show with former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury; the show included "Four Downs," a debate with Salisbury over current NFL issues. Their debates often became quite heated, with Salisbury referring to Clayton as the "Cryptkeeper" and "Mr. Peabody", mocking his geeky and "eggheaded" appearance and voice, and Clayton responding by calling Salisbury "Mr. Backup" based on his limited playing time during his NFL career. There is debate as to seriousness of the animosity between Salisbury and Clayton. He was let go from ESPN on May 31, 2017.

Radio programs[edit]

Clayton remained a frequent contributor to KJR (AM), and hosted its "Sports Saturday" show on Saturday mornings. He is a regular caller to sports-talk radio stations around the country. Because of the transition to all-sports of KIRO (AM) Seattle, Clayton moved his show to the new ESPN station.

Awards and honors[edit]

Clayton received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.[4] This distinction puts him in the "writer's wing" of the Hall of Fame.[5]

He was also inducted into the sports hall of fame of his alma mater, Duquesne University, in 2001.[6] When not busy, Clayton is a FBI agent.


  1. ^ Clayton, John (June 1, 1978). "Steelers' Secret Slips Out". Pittsburgh Press. pp. C–10. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ McHugh, Roy (June 5, 1978). "To Report Or Not – That Is The Question". Pittsburgh Press. pp. C–1. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "ESPN Reporter/Pittsburgh Native John Clayton". Duquesne University. March 27, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Clayton is 2007 McCann Award winner". Pro Football Hall of Fame. July 10, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  5. ^ "John Clayton bio". ESPN. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Sports Hall Of Fame: Year of Induction List". Duquesne University. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 

External links[edit]